Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Eddy Conversations: Travis Lowe Edition, Part 1

As I mentioned last week I am now a twitter user. Its been an interesting experience, but so far the best part (than the Norm Macdonald tweets) has been meeting some new people in the world of fly fishing, One such fellow is Travis Lowe, a filmmaker from BC currently working on a documentary called Spring Creek: Ranchers, Anglers, Water and Trout. Among the film's subjects are the Spring Creeks of Montana. Travis was kind enough to submit to an email back and forth for this edition of Eddy Conversations (check out is Bio). I've embedded some promo footage from the film--which Travis is still shooting--at the bottom.  Part two coming soon. 

The Eddy: I think the best place to start is to learn how you were drawn to Montana.

Travis Lowe: Why am I drawn to Montana? I suspect for the same reasons that many are drawn to the treasure state. Because fly fishing is Montana and Montana is fly fishing. The two are synonymous. Because as a passionate angler, I love to immerse myself in Big Sky culture, a culture that worships at the altar of the trout. Because I do not swing for steel, the fish of a thousand casts. No my finned friends, I prefer to cast once over a thousand fish (I’m no mathematician, but I like the odds of the later). But most of all, because Montana is blessed with two things that British Columbia is not. Two things that are at the very essence of my soul as an angler, Brown trout and spring creeks.  No German transplants in BC? Most anglers are probably pretty shocked to hear that. There is a small pocket population of Brown trout on Vancouver Island and a few isolated rumours of ghostly salmo trutta apparitions in my homewaters of the Kettle River. Unfortunately for fans of the big bad brown, rumours are all that remain of an almost 40 year old stocking of Browns on the Washington state side of the Kettle. In 20 years on my beloved Kettle River, I have never seen a Brown. The truth is, if I want to target browns (my favourite salmonid), I basically have to leave my province. But wait you say, no spring creeks either? WTF? That's right, for whatever reason (and trust me I have tried to discern them all during the course of my research for the film), perhaps the lack of basin range topography that so often produces spring creeks or maybe because the province has very little karst geology. 

Whatever the case, British Columbia does not have true fishable spring creeks, at least not like those seen in Montana. In the immortal words of Metallica, sad but true. To me, spring creeks are emblematic of the intensely personal fly fishing experience that I seek as an angler. They’re a microcosm of the trout environ, as if seen through some tilt shift lens. As such, they allow the angler to submerse themselves into the private world of the trout in intimate way. In a way that freestones don’t because they’re more apt to inspire the vastness of an entire eco system and leave the angler feeling but one small part. And so, like the countless anglers before me, I too, am compelled to make the pilgrimage to Montana, the Mecca of fly fishing in North America.

The Eddy: Okay, that makes sense. But how does a Canadian end up making a feature documentary film about Montana’s spring creeks?

TL: The same way a bunch of guys from Montana end up making a movie about tossing dries for BC steelhead. Passion man, passion. The film’s genesis was totally organic, I didn’t really set out to make this film, it evolved. Driven by a collapsing trout fishery on my home waters the Kettle River, I set out to explore the mystique surrounding fly fishing Montana’s fabled spring creeks. To me, spring creek angling represents the pinnacle of fly fishing. Big fish, small flies, perfect presentations, the whole Ph.D. fishery thing. I was pretty nihilistic about the situation on the Kettle, but the story that I found in Montana, actually gave me hope for the future of my river back home.  

At its base, filmmaking is storytelling, whether it be narrative or documentary and I think this story will definitely resonate with a lot of anglers. I’d been looking at doing something about the situation on my home waters, the Kettle River, for quite some time. Especially after it became “The Most Endangered River in British Columbia” due to excessive water extraction and development.  A problem I blame mostly on BIG AG.  It wasn’t until I made a trip to Montana last summer and saw what some ranchers were doing  with their spring creeks, that I found a framework to wrap the Kettle River story around, without it being a one dimensional “river be done wrong by” film. 

Really though the film is about much more than Montana’s spring creeks. It chronicles my own journey from ignorance to awareness. At its heart I think Spring Creek is a fly fishing conservation film. Hopefully it will raise awareness around the critical need to maintain minimum in stream trout flows and ultimately, how we will use water in the future. Because whether or not water is the most pressing issue of the 21st century is no longer the question, we know that it is. The question is, whether or not there’s going to be any left for trout. And that question echoes with clarity across the West. Whether your north of the 49thparallel or south of it.

Stay tuned for part two. 

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